It has been a busy summer! So much to catch up on!
Soon after I last posted (late April), we drove to Michigan for daughter Riva’s PhD graduation! So proud!
After we got home, in early May, we had solar panels installed just north of the driveway, and later planted grass next to them, and today it looks like this!
We are making more than the expected amount of electricity, and these panels should bring us close to net zero for our electricity (though we do not yet have a washer or drier, or electric car!).
Meanwhile, spring flowers were coming up, and we were starting vegetables etc. for the garden, and enlarging our vegetable garden. Also working on the 3-season porch on the west side of the house (more pictures later on). And Tim has been rowing again, and I have continued recorder-playing, among other things.
And, we decided to hire the plastering team who did the initial plastering on the bales to do the finish plastering. We had initially thought that Tim and I would do this plastering, but that was definitely wishful thinking! We would have had a tremendous learning curve, and it would have taken us “forever.” In any case, we still had a lot of preparation work, a lot more than we had initially imagined! The plastering team could come during the first week of August. Before they arrived, we had to plan, make, finish and install ALL the wood trim (around windows, the window seats, and baseboards)! And we had to move “everything” back from the walls to make room for scaffolding etc., and we had to tape and paper all of the timber frame and wood trim to protect it from plaster “spatter”. And on top of that, I made a long-ago planned wedding cake for a friend’s daughter for the Saturday before the plastering began! But during July and August we also enjoyed all the flowers in the garden, especially the many beautiful day lilies we have.
All the houseplants had to go to “summer camp” on the porch (which they loved!). Sasha our cat went to “summer camp” at the Vet’s for the duration (she did not like that so much, but was very happy to get home again). Tim made trim from our own lumber, and stained just the baseboards and window seats to roughly match the color of the timber frame. I did most of the polyurethaning (3 coats). The window seat edges had to be scribed and sawn to fit the unique curve of each window opening. On the right is the first window trim and window seat, installed by mid-July.
Below on the left is an example of the “taping and papering.” I wrapped all the braces (the plaster had to go behind them), and we taped paper over the baseboards and put tape where the plaster would run into the timber frame. The plaster is clay-lime, and the lime while wet is somewhat corrosive and will stain the wood. We got all our stuff moved out of the way and tarped. Our wonderful friends Sherry and Peter had us sleep at their house throughout the plastering. And we kept discovering more tasks… On the right is Tim installing some wood trim so the plaster would not be right up against the sheet rock ceiling. Also, once the plastering team arrived, we learned that we had to add plastic in a bunch of places… The team brought the same big blue mixing machine they call “Dan Marino,” and made many big tub-fulls of plaster, this time just with clay and lime sand, no manure.
We also decided to put some slate tiles (left over from the house in Athens) on the bathroom window sills. Tim was laying this tile in the downstairs bathroom while the plastering team was well underway on the second floor (the tiles still have to be grouted; the little blue things are spacers). Amazing to see the plastering team apply the plaster above the windows! and on all the curves!
Many of the windows also had to be covered with opaque paper to prevent direct sunlight on the plaster, which would dry it too fast and unevenly. A lot of the tape was removed as they worked, but for a week after the plastering was applied, we had to mist the plaster walls with water so it would cure slowly, which meant all the paper had to remain in place. On the left below is part of downstairs, plastered, where we also papered the posts as well as the braces. The middle photo shows the west bedroom window and the finished window seat with bead board “apron”. And, finally, on August 17, we could take all the paper down! On the right is the north wall upstairs, now light and beautiful! We are very happy with the results!
While we are still cleaning up the floors etc., we were also trying to keep up with the garden produce. We also sat down and made a long list of “next steps” for the house, things like ceilings, sheet rock on interior walls, flooring, etc.
We also got right to work on the 3-season porch on the west side of the house — the windows had arrived a couple of weeks before the plasterers and we had to wait to install them. Tim had made the basic structure of the porch last fall, and the metal roof was put on after first snow. Last spring he worked on it some more, constructing the knee walls etc. Next we needed to finish the clapboards around the roof. Tim made a complex cut-out clapboard to fit around the roof edge, and a ladder-like thing so he could (safely) perch on the roof! (I stayed on the ground, and cut clapboard to length!)
Next, he prepared the window openings with tapes etc. A wonderful friend from nearby helped us manhandle the large windows into place. They are sliders so they can be half screen or all glass. I was helping so did not get any photos of the action, but the windows are now in. Soon we’ll finish clapboards around the knee-walls, put in the door, build some steps, and finish the inside, but we can start enjoying sitting in it right away! Photo on the left is from May…
Other adventures… In the early summer we were visited by a bear! Didn’t see it, but it rummaged through our compost bin, tore down the hummingbird feeder, and bent the iron post it was on! We are pretty sure we have seen foot prints, too. So, we are being careful. Compost is going to the compost bin at the town recycling center until we get our worm composting system set up in the house. No bird feeders up. Ground floor windows closed at night. All is good!
We also have two big fat Monarch butterfly caterpillars on our little patch of milkweed!
And our expanded vegetable garden is keeping us busy — the plastering project kept us from mowing and weeding as much as we would have liked, though we did manage to freeze pounds of zucchini and summer squash and beans, and make about 8 jars of pesto (so far). We are enjoying bumper crops of squash and beans, kale and chard, and the tomatoes are coming in (we have 23 plants!), and Tim is getting ready to harvest potatoes soon. We just have to keep ahead of things like tomato horn worms, rodents eating on the delicata squashes, and the occasional deer cropping the tops of tomato plants… And of course we are always enjoying the flower garden!
The first few colored maple leaves are starting to show up, and the first wild purple asters are blooming, definite signs that Fall is on the way, despite some “Georgia” weather lately. We are continuing to enjoy our adventures here in Vermont!